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November 9, 2012

Hanceville mayor, council spar over appointments in organizational meeting

Hanceville’s new mayor-council administration held an organizational meeting this week to swear in officials and set up operations for the next four years.

Thanks to 3-3 voting that deadlocked the new group on almost every personnel decision, that meeting didn’t produce any changes in departmental leadership. But it did show that there may be a few cracks in the relative amity mayor Kenneth Nail and the previous city council had enjoyed during their productive four-year run.

Bloc voting was the order of the evening on most topics. Nail, along with repeat council members Jimmy Sawyer and Kim Brown, agreed in their votes to retain several department heads hired under the previous administration. Second-term council member Charles Wilson, along with new members Doug Batemon and Greg Baker, voted against keeping city clerk Tania Wilcox.

She’ll stay on, though, thanks to a provision in the state’s municipal code preventing tie council votes from effecting any changes in city personnel.

Batemon and Baker also voted against reappointing mayor Nail to a seat on the Cullman-Jefferson Gas Board, with Wilson abstaining. Nail will nevertheless continue in the position, which pays a $12,000 annual salary; one that previous council administrations have taken into consideration when setting the mayor’s city-funded salary. Nail’s current salary from the city is $31,000 per year.

The council did agree on appointing Annette Irons Parker as municipal judge for two years, but that was as far as the unanimity carried. Successful votes to add council member Jimmy Sawyer to the list of signatories for city accounts, as well as to appoint Sawyer as mayor pro-tem, both faced opposition from Batemon and Baker.

Nail, armed with an Alabama Supreme Court precedent case supporting his appointing power over the city’s remaining departmental positions, announced — to applause from those in attendance — the reappointments of police chief Bob Long and Fire Chief Alan Bolling. Nail also announced that all the city’s other department heads would continue in their jobs.

Nail said Thursday his next four years in office may be shaping up to be a lot tougher than his first four.

“I told the council Monday: ‘We aren’t always gonna agree. But — has the city grown in the last four years? Absolutely.’ What we all have got to understand here is, if we start getting into a fight over every decision, the city won’t grow. It hurts the city. We’ve got to be on the same page as much as we can, because we all weren’t elected to sit there and lock up on every decision. We want to serve our residents and be attractive to new investment in Hanceville, and fighting for four years isn’t gonna accomplish either of those things.”

Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at bbullard@cullmantimes.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.

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